Travelling Kiribati

in kiribati
Visiting Kiribati 1999

I am sharing extracts from the memoir in progress rather than whole pieces, just to give you a taste of the manuscript unfolding.  This week many memories of a two week trip to Kiribati have been swirling around.  I had to write them down.  Reflecting on that journey makes me want to travel, because when you travel you often not only learn about others but more about yourself.

I felt like the little mermaid walking in feet for the first time, so out of place both within and without. My initial excitement at only my second solo overseas trip was overcome by the strangeness of how it all felt. Houses without walls, streets without sign and people with manners I couldn’t always understand. So this is what it is to be foreign.

In a journey a small boat across the ocean, from Tarawa to Butaritari, which rocked so much nearly everyone was throwing up over the edge of the boat, I wondered at times if I was ever going to see my family again. I couldn’t speak to them during my time away because access to a phone wasn’t easy. The good news was I was not throwing up from the side of the boat, but seemed to have decent sea worthy skills.

I had been advised to wear long dresses and that my modesty would be judged. The young people found me old fashioned, ‘You know you can wear shorts, we do when we are gardening and overheated,’ while the old people impressed upon me their wisdom with a meditative mantra.

‘Listen, listen, listen! Respect, respect, respect,’ without being specific about what that actually meant.  I didn’t listen to the young people, and besides I hadn’t packed shorts. I chose to dress more in the long skirts, closer to how the Elders dressed.

(Extract only  from chapter in progress)

(c) June Perkins


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